DALLAS — The milestones that matter most to Kimmo Timonen right now are simple ones — the first time he withstood a hit in the corner, the first time he woke up without feeling sore, the first time he went on the ice without worrying about pulling a muscle.
“Every day is better,” Timonen said. “At least the last few days, when I get on the ice, I don’t have to think, ‘I hope I don’t pull my groin or something.’”
But it still means something to Timonen to play in his 1,100th game Saturday night in Dallas, especially considering there was a significant chance he’d never reach that number after dealing with blood clots in his calf and both lungs in August.
Only 16 active players have appeared in more games than Timonen, and only five Finns ever have.
“That usually means you’re old,” said Timonen, who turned 40 on March 18 and who plans to retire after the season.
Timonen has been slowly getting up to speed since the Blackhawks acquired him from the Philadephia Flyers on Feb. 27. After missing more than 10 months, Timonen has been eased into the lineup by Joel Quenneville. His minutes had been on the rise lately, including a season-high 14:49 on Tuesday against the Islanders, but dropped down to a season-low 7:30 against the speedy Rangers on Wednesday.
“It’s been a process,” said Timonen, who still takes blood thinners on off days. “I knew it [would] take me two or three weeks to really get to know the guys and the system in practices. Games are a different story. … It’s still a process but we’re going the right way. I’m not quite there yet.”
Quenneville said he’s been pleased with Timonen’s progress.
“His movement seems to be picking up, and I think that complements his game because he anticipates the right way, and that positional awareness defensively puts him in the right spots,” Quenneville said. “Getting there sooner and quicker gives him more effectiveness to his game, and I see some progression in that area.”